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about autism

My son is 22 months old and he doesnt know any word yet. He just say repetitive words like tatata.. jajajaja.. or dadada.... Everytime we are talking to him he won't listen as if he never hears us. He had his ears checked and everything was normal. Yesterday from his check-up, his doctor said he has symptoms of autism. I want to ask you if autism is irreversible. I also want to know what can do so that my son will become responsive everytime we are talking to him. Thank you.
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Every child that is diagnosed as being on the autistic spectrum is different.  They can be affected from severe to very mild and each child will be showing different types of abilities as well as difficulties.  If you google the Triad of Impairments, that will tell you the three main areas that those with autism tend to have difficulties.  But one child might be non-verbal whilst another is extremely verbal and infact talks too much but doesn't know how to hold a two way conversation.  
Your child is 22 months old, and is just getting to that stage when they should be starting to develop their social side.  You may find that this develops a lot, a bit or hardly at all.  That is what is most difficult because you are dealing with an unknown outcome.  No-one handed you a manual of your child when you gave birth.
I would advise you to read up about autism and join a parent support group so that you meet other families in the same situation as yourself.  They will have lots of information and advise specific to the area you live in which will be really helpful.
You say in your post that your child 'won't' listen when you talk to him.  That is typical of practically every child on the spectrum.  However it is not a case of 'won't', but rather a case of 'can't'.  This is because their senses of touch, hearing, taste, vision, smell, balance and co-ordination are also affected.  This means that they perceive and process sensory information differently to us.  What does that mean?  It means that if he is concentrating on something then he may effectively be deaf because his hearing is turned off.  You may have to repeat his name a number of times, or have to move infront of him or touch him on the shoulder to get his attention.
I would definately recommend a book by Olga Bogdashina called Sensory and Perceptual Differences in Autism and Aspergers as it helps you understand where alot of the autistic behaviours come from.  This book also has a caregivers questionnaire at the back that you can complete to get a sensory profile of your child.  This is invaluable as it will help you understand how you can adapt his environment to his sensory profile.  The important thing to understand with Sensory Integration Disorder (which is what it is), is that it fluctuates day to day and throughout the day.  For example my son may appear deaf when I call his name, or may cover his ears, he may respond to the slightest sound, or he may show sensory seeking behaviour such as banging on things to make noise.  This can happen during the course of one day.  So from a sensory point of view he has ranged from hypersensitive to noise to appearing completely deaf.  This huge range in sensory perception will make it very difficult for him to make sense of alot of things.
Is autism irreversable.  Unfortunately yes.  But as you gain an insight into how it affects your own child you will see how you can huge improvements.  
He will benefit from a high level of structure and routine so that he knows what is coming next.  There really is so much I and others could tell you.  But you really need to learn things as you go along.
I would say that it is NOT TRUE that those with autism do not have emotions or imagination or social interaction.  Alot of them do, but it is either not to the same level as a typical child, or it is without the social understanding behind it.  For example an autistic child could be uninterested in other people unless they share the same interests as they do.  Or they may find it hard to tell the difference between familiar people or strangers and may be very friendly to everyone.
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I have found that anything that involves working one to one with my son has had the best outcome.  So just try to organise as much of that as possible.
Always work with things that interest him because he won't be able to put his attention or focus onto things you are interested in or that you want him to be interested in.  So if he is fascinated with ripping up paper, or lining up blocks then do that with him.
As there are always difficulties with understanding and processing the meaning of language try to speak in simple terms eg. sentences with less then 10 words in them, and give him at least 10 seconds to process every sentence you say to him before you repeat it.
You are at the beginning of this journey and it is devastating to get a diagnosis of autism because you suddenly find out that many of the hopes, dreams and expectations you had for your child may not happen.  You will probably go through the stages of grief as you come to terms with this diagnosis.  And you will need to grieve for the child you expected to have.  But through the whole of this process your child hasn't changed and as hard as autism is to take as a diagnosis there are alot of things that are much worse out there.  
He will develop and learn as all children do.  But it might be at a different rate, or in different stages to other children.  He may turn out to be gifted in some areas and then struggle with some really simple things like tying his shoe laces.  
You might find it helpful to click on the Health Page icon on the top right hand side of this forum.  Have a look at the Behavioural Characteristics behind a Diagnosis of ASDs (Autistic Spectrum Disorders).  I have posted the DSM IV Clinical Criteria for this diagnosis and parents have posted examples of how their child's behaviour fits the diagnostic criteria.  That may be useful to you at this stage.
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You really should find a specialist to get a diagnosis. I don't believe pediatricians can diagnose autism since they are not trained to do so.  They are trained to recognize warning signs, symptoms, etc.  Just because a child shows signs of autism does not mean they are autistic.  But delayed speaking is a serious issue, regardless of the reason.  Early intervention does wonders.  Figuring out why there might be a language delay also is important.  Sometimes there are sensory processing issues involved as well.  My daughter did not start speaking until after 24 months of age.  She was diagnosed with PDD.  My friend's boy didn't start speaking until around the same age (our two kids are the same age, 1 week apart only).  He does not have any diagnosis except language delay.  He also has no other issues aside from his language delay.   Both of our children qualify for developmental preschool and therapy because they both have the language delay issue for different reasons.  Both of them learn language a little differently from each other.  

If you live in the U.S., find out about the birth to 3 program, get a free evaluation for your child.  Most states have a therapist come out to your home or if you have daycare provided for your child, they will go to the daycare center or babysitter.  Some states you have to go to the therapist's office.  But it's based on income, and it's either free or a low co-pay.  Even if you are making good money, your copay would probably end up being less than $5 or $10 a session with a max amount per month if you are getting multiple sessions per week.  Each state is different, but they are trying to make it so that families will have their child have therapy if it is needed instead of turning it down because it costs too much.  

Don't fear getting a diagnosis.  WIth early intervention, autism may not be reversible or make it go away, but it will help your child overcome many of the issues (such as sensory integration therapy and speech/language therapy) and that they will learn to communicate and be social.  My daughter was diagnosed with PDD back in April.  She turned 3 recently.  Nobody thinks she has autism except the experts and the school system.  She probably has a very mild form of autism, not typical autism.  Autism is a huge spectrum.  Sometimes other things can appear like autism.  Sensory processing disorder is one thing for example (I have met a mom whose son has that, and he is very similar to my daughter in many ways and different in others).  That's why you need a professional to diagnose your child.  Getting early intervention is important.  Having a diagnosis at some point will help the therapists more accurately work with your child.  

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